MH-17 Yet Again, Poring Over the Data (and Translations); Serious Factual Errors by Time and Western Media
For most, the shoot-down of flight MH-17 over Ukraine is a forgotten memory. Western media has continually trumped up one of three stories.
- Russian-backed rebels did it
- Russia did it
- Russian-backed rebels did it with Russia’s help
The extent to which Western media fabricated all sorts of lies to make those claims is still not widely known or understood.
Reader Jacob Dreizin, a US citizen who speaks and reads Russian, and who works for the US government (but speaks only for himself), just recently decided to review some video footage and translations offered by Time Magazine on July 17: Russia Is Blocking Justice for the Victims of Flight 17.
Dreizin emailed Time about factual errors in the article a few days ago. He sent this letter to Time.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I have found a serious factual error—in fact, a complete fabrication—in your July 17, 2015 piece titled How Russia Is Blocking Justice for the Victims of Flight 17, which is posted here:
In the piece, your author, Simon Shuster, states as follows:
On the day of the tragedy, the Ukrainian State Security Service, which is known as the SBU, released what it claimed to be an intercepted phone conversation between Kozitsyn and one of his fighters. According to the SBU’s recording, the fighter reports to Kozitsyn that they have shot down a civilian plane by mistake. “There’s a whole sea of corpses, women and children,” the fighter says. The voice identified as that of Kozitsyn does not seem moved by this information. “They shouldn’t have been flying,” the voice says. “There’s a war going on here.”
I am a native Russian speaker and I have listened to this recording, which commences at around 1:50 at the following link:
I can tell you that in this recording, despite the allegations of your author, who claims to be a native Russian speaker (as per his LinkedIn account), at no time does either party to this particular conversation claim to have shot down an airplane.
Rather, as per the SBU’s accurate translation, which is shown in subtitles on the YouTube link, and which I confirm is correct, the unnamed alleged rebel speaking with a person alleged to be Kozitsyn merely recounts his observations of the wreckage of a plane that he believes has been shot down. He takes no credit for shooting it down, nor does he state or suggest who shot it down.
Why, then, does your writer, Simon Shuster, state “According to the SBU’s recording, the fighter reports to Kozitsyn that they have shot down a civilian plane by mistake”?
Mr. Shuster’s account substantially departs from his own source material. Why?
Of course, the SBU’s intent is to showcase a number of alleged rebels talking about an aircraft going down and to imply (by way of their interest in the matter) that they were responsible for the MH17 disaster. Mr. Shuster, like so many others over the last 14-some months, seems to have taken that implication and ran with it, to the point of actually putting words into the recording that are simply not there!
Another point of interest: In the first recording in the above link, which starts at around 0:18 in the link, the SBU allegedly presents the rebel commander Igor Bezler talking with his alleged Russian handler as to his knowledge of a certain rebel unit shooting down a plane around 30 minutes prior to the conversation occurring. The SBU translation subtitles also suggest that Bezler can see smoke coming from the crash site, although to me that part is indiscernible.
Given that Bezler’s headquarters and main zone of control (the city of Gorlovka) was roughly 25 to 30 miles northwest of the MH17 debris field, it is highly likely that—assuming it is in fact him on the recording—the conversation relates to a prior shoot-down of a Ukrainian combat plane in the Gorlovka area, i.e. something that did in fact take place before the downing of MH17.
In any case, there is nothing within the recording itself to identify a place, date, time, or even the parties to the conversation—we have only the SBU’s word as to who these people are and when the conversation is taking place.
Also of interest, the second recording in the link (starting at 0:43) is unnatural in places and, to a Russian speaker such as myself, seems to be either a splice of two or three separate conversations, or else one conversation that has been condensed (i.e. pieces of it have been removed, possibly to present an inaccurate picture of the whole.)
Last but not least, the fact that this diverse montage (totaling three separate conversations) was jumbled together in one video, subtitled in English, and posted to YouTube, not to mention pitched to the media, all just a few hours after MH17 went down (note the date on the link), is suspicious to say the least. I work for the U.S. Government, and (though I am not speaking for the Government or any of its agencies or offices in any way whatsoever) I have never seen Government move so fast—it is simply inconceivable.
My main point in writing you is to inform you that your writer, Simon Shuster, has made a bold, significant claim on your website that is patently and demonstrably false—and moreover, one that he must have known to be false.
Thus, I request that you issue a public retraction on this matter.
Thank you for your attention.
Video in Russian – English Subtitles
Link if video does not play: Malaysia Airlines: Phone calls of terrorists intercepted by Security Service of Ukraine.
I commend Dreizin for taking a stand for the truth, and I hope it does not cost him his job.
- Neither the US nor Ukraine is interested in the truth if Ukraine is responsible.
- Neither Russia nor the Rebels are interested in the truth if the rebels or Russia is responsible.
- Blatant lies and sloppy media reporting by Ukraine and Western media is clearly rampant.
- Most have jumped to conclusions believing biased reporting and outright fabrications by their government.
- A small subset of us would like to know what really happened, regardless of whom is to blame.
Shortly after the incident, allegations similar to those made by Simon Shuster were widely trumped up as “proof” the rebels did it. The ensuing propaganda campaign was an unfortunate success, at least to the small subset of us who want the truth be known, no matter which side is to blame.
Iranian defense ministry believes reports on “fallen Russian cruise missiles” are part of the intensified western propaganda war, according to a source.
Tehran has denied US reports that four of Russia’s cruise missiles targeting ISIL actually fell to the ground in Iran, with the country’s defense ministry calling the accusations “psychological war.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry also refutes US media reports of an alleged incident involving cruise missiles which were fired at ISIL positions in Syria on October 7, stating that all missiles hit their designated targets.
“No matter how unpleasant and unexpected for our colleagues in the Pentagon and Langley was yesterday’s high-precision strike on Islamic State infrastructure in Syria, the fact remains that all missiles launched from our ships have found their targets,” ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
On Thursday, CNN reported that four of the 26 missiles fired from Russian warships in the Caspian Sea went off target and crashed in Iran. That report was based on anonymous Pentagon sources, who despite claiming to have evidence of the targeting malfunction, could not identify where, precisely, the missiles landed.
“In contrast to CNN we do not talk with reference to anonymous sources,” Konashenkov said. “We show the launch of our rockets and the targets they struck.”
Indeed, the Russian Defense Ministry has posted a number of videos to prove the accuracy of its targeting systems.
In the US information war aimed against the Russian air campaign in Syria, perhaps no outlet has been more misleading than the New York Times.
Writing for America’s newspaper of record, columnist Thomas Friedman wrote fairly candidly of his opinion on Russia’s Syria campaign.
“Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power,” Friedman wrote in the NYT last week. “Watch him become public enemy No. 1 in the Sunni Muslim world. ‘Yo, Vladimir, how’s that working for you?'”
As Patrick L. Smith points out, writing for Salon, “most of ‘the Sunni Muslim world’ is as appalled by the Islamic State as the non-Sunni Muslim world.”
But Friedman’s unfounded statements shouldn’t be altogether surprising, given his employer’s history of toeing the line of the US government.
Since the Russian airstrikes began, the New York Times – as well as the vast majority of Western media – has spread the Pentagon’s falsehoods about the conflicts.
“We are always encouraged to find anything Putin does devious and the outcome of hidden motives and some obscure agenda having to do with his pouting ambition to be seen as a first-rank world leader,” Smith writes.
“From the government-supervised New York Times on down, this is what you read in the newspapers and hear on the radio and television broadcasts.”
So Friedman’s self-described “defense of President Barack Obama’s policy on Syria,” falls in line with that doctrine.
While Friedman may claim to disapprove of the airstrikes because “Putin and Russia would be seen as going all-in to protect Assad, a pro-Iranian, Alawite/Shiite genocidal war criminal,” it’s hard to ignore the true source of such hyperbolic statements.
Friedman’s views – and those of the New York Times – owe allegiance not to truth, but to American empire.
Mexican marines raided a small community in the northern state of Durango and opened fired on homes with no known reason, while two young males were forcibly disappeared, neighbors told Sinaloan newspaper RioDoce.
“The troops of the Ministry of the Navy arrived in the community of El Verano and began firing at houses,” the witness said, according to RioDoce.
The newspaper said the El Verano inhabitant told them that about 15 families live in the community, still “besieged” by the marines.
The unidentified person that spoke with RioDoce said they were unaware if there were any victims, but said they saw a funeral home hearse driving through the small community.
Those forcibly disappeared were identified as Jesus Felix and his cousin Octavio Almodovar.
RioDoce said there were unconfirmed reports that a naval helicopter had been gunned down near El Verano.
A witness, identified as Lorena Silvas, said, “There are many complaints by people of other small communities near the municipality of Tamazula near El Verano, and they say there too many abuses being committed by the marines.”
Silvas said there are reports of marines carrying out raids on homes without search warrants, where they “take with them everything they find.”
The U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, called on the Mexican government Wednesday to remove all military forces from public safety operations.
Al-Hussein said that impunity in Mexico is extremely commonplace, with 98 percent of reported crimes never resolved and in most cases not even investigated. He also said that 151,233 people have been murdered in Mexico from December 2006 to August 2015, while over 27,000 remain disappeared.
In June, various news outlets reported that marines had fired on civilians — including minors — in Tamazula.
Cadena Cinco reported that marines attacked a family traveling in a vehicle during which at least two people died, according to local officials. The president of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights of Sinaloa, Leonel Aguirre, explained then that marines planted guns on various young males to justify the attack and deaths.
This two-minute video, taken on October 7 in the West Bank near Ramallah, is worth studying carefully to understand how Israel has become so adept at managing the Palestinian population under occupation and at foiling their efforts at resistance.
We can see about 20 men, faces concealed, who look like they are Palestinian protesters throwing stones at the army. In fact, they are what are called “mistaravim”: Israeli security forces in disguise as Palestinian youths.
According to those who witnessed this incident (see update below), the mistaravim began throwing stones at the army in a piece of theatre to lure other Palestinians to the protest.
Then, as we can see in the video, when a few Palestinian protesters separate themselves from the main body of the crowd they are picked off by the mistaravim, like lions going after a gazelle.
Notice, once they have grabbed the main Palestinian in this video, they shoot him in the knee and take turns kicking him.
We can’t see what happens next, but the routine is well known.
He will be taken off to a Shin Bet interrogation (torture) cell, where he will be made to give up the names of anyone he can think off who was there (and very possibly those who weren’t).
Then the Israeli army will make night raids to grab those who were named, or arrest them when they try to cross one of the many checkpoints and roadblocks Israel operates in the occupied territories.
At some point later he will be released. The Shin Bet will use his “confession” as blackmail to get him to serve as an informer.
This has been going on for nearly five decades in the occupied territories. It has created an awful lot of Palestinians trapped in a vicious cycle of collaboration, and a very effective system of control for Israel.
Sam Bahour makes the point that the drama playing out here illustrates the way young Palestinians are being drawn not into an organised intifada but into futile bursts of anger against Israel.
He says it more eloquently than I can:
Here is another video of the same incident, showing what happens earlier when the mistaravim are throwing stones and then switch sides.
President Barack Obama is turning his back on possibly the last best chance to resolve the bloody Syrian war because he fears a backlash from Official Washington’s powerful coalition of neoconservatives and “liberal interventionists” along with their foreign fellow-travelers: Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf sheikdoms.
The route toward peace would be to collaborate with Russia and Iran to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to accept a power-sharing unity government that would fairly represent Syria’s major religious and ethnic groups – Christians, Alawites, Shiites and moderate Sunnis – along with a commitment for free, internationally monitored elections once adequate security is restored.
But for such an arrangement to work, Obama also would have to crack down aggressively on U.S. regional “allies” to ensure that they stopped funding, supplying and otherwise assisting the Sunni extremist forces including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State (or ISIS). Obama would have to confront the Sunni “allies” – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – as well as Israel.
His pressure would have to include stern action aimed at the global finances of the Gulf states – i.e., seizing their assets as punishment for their continuing support for terrorism – as well as similar sanctions against Turkey, possibly ousting it from NATO if it balked, and a withdrawal of political and financial support for Israel if it continued helping Nusra fighters and viewing Al Qaeda as the “lesser evil” in Syria. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Israel.”]
Obama also would have to make it clear to Syria’s “moderate” Sunni politicians whom the U.S. government has been subsidizing for the past several years that they must sit down with Assad’s representatives and work out a unity government or the American largess would end.
This combination of strong international pressure on the Sunni terror infrastructure and strong-arming internal players in Syria into a unity government could isolate the Sunni extremists from Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and thus minimize the need for military strikes whether carried out by Russia (against both Al Qaeda and ISIS) or the U.S. coalition (focusing on ISIS).
And, the arrival of Russian military support for the Assad government – as well as the increased backing from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah – represented the moment when the prospect for peace was brightest, whatever one thinks of those various players. However, instead of working with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, President Obama chose to bend to the pressures of Official Washington.
Appeasing the Warmongers
Thinking he had stretched the tolerance of neocons and liberal hawks as far as he could by pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama fell in line behind their propagandistic denunciations of Assad and Putin. Obama’s administration joined in promoting the new favorite “group think” of Washington – that Putin had promised to only bomb the Islamic State and then reneged by attacking “moderate” rebels and their more powerful ally, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Conveniently, this storyline doesn’t cite the wording of Putin’s supposed “promise” although some articles do mention him vowing to attack “terrorist” groups, which the mainstream U.S. news media has interpreted as the Islamic State only. But this odd framing accepts the breathtaking premise that Al Qaeda is no longer a terrorist organization – apparently rehabilitated by the fact that Israel has been helping Al Qaeda’s affiliate, the Nusra Front, along the Golan Heights and prefers it to Assad’s continued rule. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Should US Ally with Al Qaeda in Syria?”]
Among the many purveyors of this “Putin lied” narrative is Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who on Tuesday repeated the canard that Putin had “promised” to strike only the Islamic State and then broke that promise. For good measure, Cohen added that the Russians had “invaded” Syria although they were formally invited by the recognized government of Syria.
“Yes, the Russians did invade,” Cohen wrote. “They sent war planes, mechanized units and even troops into Syria. They have begun bombing missions, apparently hitting insurgents seeking to topple Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and not only, as Russian President Vladimir Putin promised, Islamic State units. Putin – surprise! – lied.”
Normally in journalism, before we accuse someone of lying, we show what they actually said and contrast it with the facts. But Official Washington has long since moved Putin into the free-fire zone of demonization. Anything can be said about him, whether based in reality or not, and anyone who objects to this “group think” is called a “Putin bootlicker” or a “Putin apologist.”
Thus, any reality-based skepticism is ruled out of the frame of debate. Such was the way that the United States plunged blindly into the Iraq War in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was the demonized figure and the Europeans who warned President George W. Bush not to invade were laughed at as “Euro-weenies.” American skeptics were “Saddam apologists.”
Cohen is back at it again in his Tuesday column, which – on the Internet – has the curious title “The High Cost of Avoiding War in Syria.” Cohen throws around the word “invasion” where Russia is involved – even when there was no “invasion” – but he advocates an actual U.S. invasion with cavalier hypocrisy.
Cohen slams Obama for not having established “a no-fly zone” in Syria earlier, which would have involved the United States bombing and destroying Syria’s air force, a clear act of aggression and an obvious boon to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Cohen also says he was for “arming the rebels,” another violation of international law which – when tried by Obama to appease the drumbeat from Cohen and his ilk – led to many U.S.-trained and U.S.-armed rebels taking their equipment and skills to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Yet, Cohen — on the prized opinion real estate of The Washington Post’s op-ed page and in his nationally syndicated column — unapologetically encourages an illegal invasion of another country while condemning Russia for doing the same except that Russia was following international law by working with the sovereign government of Syria and therefore has not “invaded” Syria.
We also are supposed to forget that Cohen’s ideas would benefit Sunni jihadists, such as the Al Qaeda-dominated “Army of Conquest” which could use the “no-fly zones” to mount a victorious offensive to capture Damascus and create a humanitarian crisis even worse than now.
Possibly with ISIS chopping off the heads of “infidels” – Christians, Alawites, Shiites, etc. – and with Al Qaeda having a new home in the center of the Middle East to plot terror strikes on the West, Cohen’s plan might necessitate a major U.S. military intervention that would get even more people killed and deal the final death blow to the American Republic.
In evaluating Cohen’s lame-brained double-think, it is worth remembering that he was one of the many U.S. opinion leaders who cheered on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deceptive Iraq War speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. Waving “we-love-Colin” pompoms alongside all his esteemed colleagues, Cohen laughed at anyone who still doubted that Saddam Hussein possessed hidden WMD stockpiles.
“The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations – some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail – had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them,” Cohen wrote. “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise.”
Ha-ha, did you get that clever line – “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman” – pretty funny except that by heaping ridicule on those of us who doubted Powell’s evidence, Cohen contributed to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than $1 trillion, and chaos now spreading across not just the Middle East but into Europe.
In a normal place where there was some modicum of accountability, you would have expected Cohen to be banished to Storage Room B with his red stapler or worse. But no, Cohen is back running with the same juvenile in-crowd, behaving just as stupidly and just as recklessly as he has many times in the past.
But the larger problem is that President Obama appears intimidated by this collection of know-it-alls who preen across the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times or who hold down prestigious “fellowships” at the Brookings Institution or other big-name think tanks or who self-identify as “human rights activists” advocating “humanitarian” wars.
Arguably, Obama has always had an outsized regard for people with establishment credentials. It is, after all, how he rose through the ranks as first an extremely bright academic and later a talented orator and politician. Without family connections or personal wealth, he needed the approval of various influential individuals. If he offended them in some way, he risked being pigeonholed as “an angry black man.”
Indeed, the comedy duo Key & Peele developed a series of funny skits with Jordan Peele playing the always proper and controlled Obama and Keegan-Michael Key as “anger translator Luther.” Obama even invited “Luther” to translate Obama’s speech to the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner, except that by the end of that talk Obama was expressing his own anger and Luther peeled away.
The problem in the real world is that Obama remains cowed by the Important People of Washington – represented in that oh-so-important crowd at the dinner – and bows to their misguided thinking.
Obama also is facing a beefed-up lobbying operation for Saudi Arabia to go along with the always formidable Israel Lobby. The Intercept reported that in September the Saudi kingdom added to its large stable of thoroughbred influence-peddlers by signing “Edelman, the largest privately owned public relations agency in the world [and] the Podesta Group … a lobbying firm founded by Tony Podesta, a major fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.”
Indeed, the repressive Saudi kingdom may need some special P.R. help as it prepares to behead Ali Mohammed al-Nimr whose body would then be attached to a cross or otherwise displayed in a crucifixion that would leave his corpse to rot for several days as a warning to others. Al-Nimr is a Shiite who at the age of 17 in 2012 participated in a pro-democracy demonstration that was viewed as an affront to the monarchy.
The Saudis also have been waging a ruthless air war against impoverished Yemen, attacking Houthis who stem from a branch of Shia Islam which Saudi Sunni Wahhabism considers apostasy. The Saudi bombing campaign, which recently killed some 131 celebrants at a wedding inside Yemen, gets intelligence and logistical support from the Obama administration even though the slaughter of Houthis has benefited their Yemeni rivals, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” who have gained ground behind the Saudi air offensive.
Yet, the Saudis’ P.R. battalions – along with the Israel Lobby – have kept Official Washington’s focus in other directions. Indeed, there are now so many false or dubious narratives dis-informing the capital’s “group think” that U.S. decisions are driven more by mythology than facts.
Obama could begin the process of restoring sanity to Washington by declassifying U.S. intelligence analyses on several key issues. For instance, Obama could release what’s now known about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus.
After that attack, there was a rush to judgment at the State Department and within the mainstream U.S. news media to blame that atrocity on Assad’s forces, although I’m told that CIA analysts have since moved away from that view and now agree that the attack was likely a provocation designed to draw the U.S. military into the war on the side of the Sunni jihadists. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]
Though Obama and other officials have dropped the sarin accusations from their public speeches – harping instead on “barrel bombs” as if those homemade weapons are some uniquely evil device – Obama has refused to retract the sarin allegations which helped shape the hyper-hostile “conventional wisdom” against Assad.
Similarly, Obama has withheld U.S. intelligence information about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, letting stand hasty accusations blaming Putin. Obama appears infatuated by the trendy concept of “strategic communications” or “Stratcom,” which blends psy-ops, propaganda and P.R. into one noxious brew to poison public opinion about one’s “enemy.”
With the recent Russian military intervention in Syria, Obama had the chance to correct the record on the sarin-gas attack and the MH-17 shoot-down but instead continued the “Stratcom” both in his United Nations speech and his news conference last Friday with more hyperbolic attacks against Assad and Putin. In doing so, Obama apparently bowed to the desired rhetoric of hardliners like U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and the editorial-page masters of The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Obama may have hoped his harsh language would appease the neocons and their liberal-hawk pals, but the tough-guy rhetoric has only opened him up to new attacks over the disparity between his words and deeds. As the clueless columnist Richard Cohen wrote, “A no-fly zone needs to be established. It is not too late to do something. By doing so little, the United States has allowed others to do so much.” [Emphasis in original.]
In other words, Cohen appears to want the U.S. military to shoot down Russian planes over Syria, even though the Russians have been invited by the recognized government to be there and the U.S. has not. The minor complication of possible human extinction from a nuclear war apparently is of little consequence when compared to the street cred that one gets from such manly talk.
For Official Washington – and apparently Obama – the peace option is regarded as unacceptable, i.e., working with Russia and Iran to achieve a power-sharing unity government in Damascus (with the promise of elections as soon as possible) along with the United States demanding from its regional “allies” a complete shutdown of assistance to the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and all other Sunni jihadists.
That option would require Obama and the neocon/liberal-hawk cowboys to get down off their high horses, admit they have been tossing their lasso in the wrong direction – and compromise.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Sunday, I reported on the police execution of East Jerusalem Palestinian teenager, Fadi Alloun, outside the Old City. I noted the false reporting of the Jerusalem Post which stated that the police saw him “holding a knife” and “neutralized” him. There has been no supporting reporting in the Israeli media confirming this.
Now the international newspaper of record, the NY Times, gets in on the act. In Diaa Hadid’s report tonight, instead of focusing on his murder, she focuses on a supposed disagreement between villages and political factions about where he should be buried. The title of her story: Dispute Over a Burial Reveals Palestinian Divisions. Instead of focusing on the real news story of the video showing a flagrant execution, she invents a dispute purporting to show the Palestinian national movement in disarray.
This paragraph in particular irks:
“Mr. Alon was fatally shot by police officers early Sunday after he stabbed and wounded a 15-year-old Jewish boy on a road outside the Old City, according to the police. A video clip showed Mr. Alon being shot, apparently as he was trying to flee, with Israeli civilians in pursuit and shouting “Shoot him!”
In fact, no Israeli media has offered any proof that Alloun was the attacker who stabbed the Israeli. If you watch the video of the Alloun killing, he was not “apparently fleeing” the stabbing. He was fleeing the Israelis who were rushing at him. At one point, he says to his attackers: “Let me pass.” This is a youth being pursued by baying hounds, and seeking safety.
Why does the report not display the video of the Alloun killing in which the policeman exits his car and immediately murders Alloun without telling him to stop or saying anything to him? Why not note that when the policeman asks a bystander if Alloun had stabbed anyone, the bystander replies: “not yet.”
Why would the NY Times permit a regurgitation of police claims without offering any qualification or skepticism when no actual proof or evidence has been offered?
This is the rankest of journalism. Instead of providing illumination to readers in a dark hour of Israeli-Palestinian history, the Times gives us pandering and stenography.
Finally, there remains a possibility that Alloun was the attacker who stabbed the Israeli boy (the stabbing and later murder happened in the general vicinity). But there is not yet any firm evidence supporting this claim. The Times’ rush to judgment is irresponsible.
A minor quibble: though I am not an expert in Arabic (by any means), Hadid spells Alloun’s name “Alon.” That does not seem to be phonetically close to the spelling Electronic Intifada adopted and which I’ve used. The name Alon is a common Israeli name. But Palestinian?
Mexico’s Defense Secretary said Monday night that he will not let the nation’s soldiers be questioned by international investigators over the apparent abduction and massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa last year.
“I can’t permit them to interrogate my soldiers, who at this point haven’t committed a single crime,” said Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos in an interview with the Televisa network. He said the soldiers only answer to Mexican authorities.
His comments came after two separate reports, published last month, contradicted government claims that soldiers were not in the area when, a little over a year ago, dozens of students at Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero went missing. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, and the Mexican magazine Proceso conducted separate investigations that both found soldiers were in fact present at the time of the incident.
IACHR investigators have criticized the government’s investigation of the disappearance and have sought to interview the soldiers who they say were present. Meanwhile, a report from the magazine Proceso revealed that bullet casings from weapons carried by the Mexican army were found at the crime scene.
“We received the order from [name redacted]: ‘arm yourselves, we’re going out,’” one soldier said in a deposition with Mexican prosecutors that was obtained by the magazine. “He told us, ‘get [expletive] ready because there’s armed personnel that are going around killing people.”
The Mexican government has already conceded a state role in the incident, accusing Jose Luis Abarca, mayor of the town of Iguala, of ordering local police to kidnap the students and hand them over to a local gang to be killed. Tomás Zerón de Lucio, head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigations Agency, has claimed the students were mistakenly identified as members of a rival criminal organization. “That was the reason why they were deprived of their freedom, initially, and then of their lives,” he said in January.
The IAHCR report accuses the army of having witnessed the events as they unfolded and failing to intervene. The report in Proceso suggests soldiers actually fired on the students, perhaps mistaking them for criminals.
The Mexican government’s refusal to allow members of its military to be interviewed by international investigators comes just days after Mexicans marked the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco square massacre, when soldiers and police fired into a crowded of unarmed protesters in Mexico City days before the start of the Olympic Games. Witnesses reported seeing dozens of dead bodies. Hundreds of people were arrested, many never to be seen again.
After decades of denying any wrongdoing, the Mexican government conceded there was a systemic cover-up and in 2006 accused former President Luis Echeverría, the interior secretary, of having organized the massacre, charging him with genocide. He was found not guilty.
As Israelis and Palestinians die in an upsurge of violence, The New York Times fails once again to give readers an honest look at the causes of this agonizing conflict. Missing from its pages is any real exposure of the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine that underscores every aspect of the current crisis.
Thus we find a story today that focuses on the abstract: how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can “calibrate his response” to avoid provoking greater violence and satisfy his extremist opponents in the government. It is heavily weighted with Israeli punditry and refers to ongoing clashes and attacks, but it makes no effort to provide the essential context.
In this article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner the word “occupation” appears only in a quote by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. “Palestine,” she says, “has been subject to the systematic and escalating violence of the occupation, whether in the form of settler-terrorism or at the hands of the Israeli military using live ammunition.”
Times readers are likely to dismiss her words as little more than rhetorical flourishes of the opposition, given that the newspaper has consistently failed to show the full reality of life for Palestinians, glossing over violence by soldiers and settlers and giving prominence to Palestinian attacks.
For instance, today’s report states that a Palestinian teenager was shot after he tried to stab an Israeli youth early Sunday, but it omits any mention that videos show he was chased down by a mob, shot by police, was carrying no knife and did not pose a threat to anyone in the area.
The story also says nothing of settler rampages throughout the West Bank in recent days, which have left dozens injured and forced the Red Crescent Society to declare a state of emergency after numerous attacks on its ambulances by both settlers and security forces.
Times readers rarely receive even a brief glimpse of what occupation means to Palestinians. The newspaper largely ignores the constant reports emanating from alternative media, the United Nations and monitoring groups that show how a sophisticated military power oppresses a nearly helpless population lacking even the most basic weapons for defense.
Readers remain ignorant of the Israeli abuse of Palestinian child prisoners, a situation that has been documented and criticized in numerous reports. They are unaware of the frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza fishermen and farmers and a recent United Kingdom report that states Israel has violated the 2014 ceasefire some 700 times since August of last year.
They hear nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli troops harass the poorest and most vulnerable communities, burning their crops, destroying their tents and water systems and repeatedly forcing them from their homes for “maneuvers.”
They are unaware of the huge disparity in water supplies between the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the indigenous Palestinian villages, and they were never informed when hundreds of animals died in the West Bank community of Kafr Qaddoum this summer as Israeli officials cut off water deliveries during a stifling heat wave.
These constant, daily cruelties find no place in the Times, and readers likewise find no historical backdrop for the occupation. It is rarely, if ever, reported that Israel is in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a military occupying force and that the settlements are built in defiance of international law.
Without this backstory, it is not surprising when readers take Netanyahu’s claim at face value: that acts of resistance against the occupation are nothing but terrorist assaults arising out of a free-floating hatred of Jews.
Palestinians watch with dismay as Israel confiscates ever more land and resources, forcing the indigenous communities into poverty-stricken bantustans. This is the reality that is missing from the Times, deliberately obscured in the context-free reporting of Rudoren and Kershner.
The ACLU’s long-running effort to shed light on the government’s “targeted killing” program has had its share of breakthroughs — most importantly, the Second Circuit Appeals Court’s release of a July 2010 Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memorandum laying out the purported legal justification for the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.
But while we’ve been at it for more than half a decade, the government continues to stonewall. For years in our Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, the government claimed that it could not even “confirm or deny” the existence of records related to the program — a program that was, even then, openly discussed in the media, in the halls of Congress, and in government officials’ formal speeches. Then the government refused to identify or release records that the courts finally forced it to admit it had.
Today, that — um — changed.
This morning, the ACLU actually received a responsive targeted-killing record from the government. It sums up the government’s current stance with respect to disclosures relating to the program.
Eight pages completely redacted, with this at the end:
How’s that for “helpful”?
A week and a half ago news emerged from Havana that the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Colombian government had reached a framework for a final peace agreement to be signed within six months. This was hailed as a breakthrough in the half-century-old conflict and an opportunity to bring peace to the people of Colombia. But by adopting the government’s narrative, mainstream media have failed to recognize the primary cause of the violence and the inevitability that it will continue in the future.
The decades-long policy of the Colombian government has been a national security strategy of counterinsurgency, developed in the late 1950s under the sponsorship of the US military. The goal of the US government was to maintain a business-friendly political system that would implement economic policies amenable to multinational corporations and foreign capital. Resistance to such policies was deemed subversion, and people who sympathized with such resistance were branded as internal enemies to be eliminated or neutralized by military means.
The narrative of the national security doctrine holds that if the insurgent threat is eliminated, then peace will be restored. The implicit assumption is that the FARC rebels have always been the side standing in the way of peace. According to this interpretation, when the FARC initiated their military operations the state was acting for the benefit of the nation as a whole by organizing a counter response.
But this narrative is historically inaccurate. The Colombian conflict is not a battle of society at large against a group of guerillas, but a battle of a small group of elites controlling the state apparatus against the majority of the population.
“As in many other Latin American countries, we can find the seeds of present-day social inequality and strife in the concentration of Colombia’s land and resources under the control of a tiny minority, matched by the progressive dispossession of the majority of people, which originated with colonialism in the sixteenth century,” explains Jasmin Hristov in her book Blood and Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia. 
After the FARC developed as the armed wing of the Communist Party in Colombia, the counterinsurgency doctrine – developed by the US military and codified in manuals distributed as early as the 1960s – taught the US’s Colombian counterparts to view any advocacy for social justice or democratic reform as a form of Communist insurgency. In addition to armed rebels, clergy, academics, labor leaders, human rights workers, and other members of civil society became potential insurgent targets.
To further extend their reach into Colombian society, the government legally authorized paramilitarism in 1965 with Plan Lazlo to form “civilian defense forces” armed and incorporated into the Colombian military system.  These forces serve the government’s goal of preserving the status quo by carrying out their dirty work through the use of death squads, assassinations, torture, intimidation and disappearances while providing cover and the appearance of distance from the state itself.
The Colombian conflict cannot be understood without recognizing the true nature of the actors involved and the interests they represent. “The paramilitary has never been, and is even less so now, a third actor (the state and the guerillas being the other two), as portrayed in mainstream security discourses,” writes Hristov. 
Writing in the New York Times after the peace agreement was announced, Ernesto Londoño declared the “three-way fight among guerilla factions, government forces and right-wing paramilitary bands that often acted as proxies for the state had killed more than 220,000 people and displaced an estimated 5.7 million.”
Dan Kovalik, Professor of International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, disputes the notion that paramilitaries merely occasionally serve as proxies: “It is impossible to talk about the paramilitaries as separate from the Colombian state, for the Colombian state helped create the paramilitaries, and human rights groups have concluded year after year that the state has provided them with weapons, logistical support and has carried out joint operations with them, Even federal courts confronted with this questions under the Alien Tort Claims Act have concluded that the paramilitaries are sufficiently integrated with the state that their misdeeds constitute state action.”
Aside from inaccurately describing the fighting, Londoño’s statement uses statistics about the cumulative violence without describing who holds responsibility for the deaths and displacements. Later in his editorial, Londoño implicitly blames the FARC for the majority of the violence: “Dozens of victims traveled to Havana to speak about abuses they endured at the hands of the guerilla leaders. Some implicated government forces in brutal acts… The special war tribunals the government intends to start adjudicating crimes will be dismissed as kangaroo courts by those who would have favored a military defeat of the FARC.”
If one accepts the national security narrative that most violence by the government amounts to collateral damage as a result of reaction to insurgent aggression, then guerillas would be responsible for the majority of deaths and injuries. But this is hardly the case.
Kovalik notes that “human rights groups have consistently concluded that the Colombian state and its paramilitary allies commit the lion’s share of the human rights violations in that country – in the worst years, at least 80% of the abuses can be attributed to these forces.”
US Government Intervention and Plan Colombia
Londoño also credits US policy with providing the impetus to achieving peace: “Washington’s forceful intervention in the war, an intervention that began in the late 1990s, enabled the Colombian government to weaken the FARC and ultimately set the stage for peace negotiations.”
Washington’s counterinsurgency policy is seen not only as an instrument for peace, but as the primary factor enabling its achievement. This is stunning historical revisionism that portrays the instigator and sponsor of massive violence that has lasted decades as an honest broker for ending this violence.
In reality, Washington’s intervention began 40 years earlier than Londoño claims, and it created the war that has raged ever since. By any objective measure, US policy in Colombia has been an abject failure. Under US direction, funding and training, the Colombian state has had one of the worst human rights records in the hemisphere. Many human rights organizations attest to this, and have demanded an end to US military aid to Colombia.
“Year after year US policy has ignored the evidence and the cries of the United Nations, Colombian and international non-governmental organizations and the people of Colombia. Plan Colombia is a failure in every respect and human rights in Colombia will not improve until there is a fundamental shift in US foreign policy,” writes Amnesty International USA.
A Human Rights Watch report declared that: “all international security assistance should be conditioned on explicit actions by the Colombian Government to sever links, at all levels, between the Colombian military and paramilitary groups. Abuses directly attributed to members of the Colombian military have decreased in recent years, but over the same period the number and scale of abuses attributed to paramilitary groups operating with the military’s acquiescence or open support have skyrocketed.”
Bogotá professor and historian Renán Vega Cantor, in a study of U.S. involvement in Colombia, writes that: “State terrorism that has been perpetual in Colombia since the end of the 1940s feeds off the military support and financing of the United States, as much as the interests of the dominant Creole classes, to preserve their wealth and power and deny the fulfillment of elemental economic and social reforms that are redistributive.”
What the New York Times and the mainstream media miss in their analysis is that the current neoliberal Colombian sociopolitical system necessitates the continuance of violence to accommodate capital.
“The guerilla was not the cause of the Colombian conflict but rather one of its symptoms, and simultaneously became a contributing factor in the sense that its very existence has provided the ideological substance for the pretext and justification behind state-sanctioned violence and militarization, Thus unfortunately the presence of the guerilla has been used by the powerful to legitimate the onslaught on social forces that challenge the power of the dominant classes,” writes Hristov in her latest book, Paramilitarism and Neoliberalism: Violent Systems of Capital Accumulation in Colombia and Beyond. 
Hristov says that in order for the government to meet FARC’s demands, they would have to invest in social programs at the expense of the military-security apparatus currently in place. But since these systems serve the neoliberal economic restructuring that funnels land and resources from the masses to the tiny elite minority, it would be naive to assume this will happen.
“Even in a post-FARC era the state would always have a pretext, such as BACRIM [criminal bands with roots in nominally disarmed paramilitary groups] or the existence of other guerilla groups, to maintain its high level of militarization,” Hristov writes. 
The portrayal of the Colombian conflict in the New York Times and other mainstream media replicates state propaganda, in the form of the national security doctrine, while failing to account for the inherent violence of the economic system in Colombia that has driven the perpetual militarism and coercion in the country.
While any agreement offering the prospect of decreased bloodshed is encouraging, the fact that the Colombian state continues to abide by the Washington Consensus and its neoliberal socioeconomic model sadly signifies that the country is inevitably headed for continued violence, dispossession, and suffering by the vast majority of the population.
When the Colombian government and the western media recognize that Washington intervention exacerbates the violence, rather than helps minimize it, then possibly Colombia can begin to extricate itself and pursue a course that will enable the Colombian people to achieve lasting peace and social justice.
 Hristov, Jasmin. Blood and Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia. Ohio University Press; 1 edition, 2009. Kindle edition.
 Hristov, Jasmin. Paramilitarism and Neoliberalism: Violent Systems of Capital Accumulation in Colombia and Beyond. London: Pluto Press, 2014. (pg. 153)
 Hristov, 2014 (pg. 157)
On Dec. 26, 2009, a U.S. Special Operations team flew from Kabul to Ghazi Khan village in the Narang district of Kunar province. They attacked three houses, where they killed two adults and eight children. Seven of the children were handcuffed before they were shot. The youngest was 11 or 12, three more were 12, and one was 15. Both the United Nations and the Afghan government conducted investigations and confirmed all the details of the attack.
U.S. officials conducted their own inquiry, but no report was published and no U.S. military or civilian officials were held accountable. Finally, more than five years later, a New York Times report on Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) Seal Team 6 named it as the U.S. force involved. But JSOC operations are officially secret and, to all practical purposes, immune from accountability. As a senior U.S. officer told the Times, “JSOC investigates JSOC, that’s part of the problem.”
Accountability for the U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on Saturday, killing at least 22 people, is likely to be just as elusive. The bilateral security agreement that President Karzai refused to sign, but which President Ghani signed in September 2014, provides total immunity from Afghan law for U.S. forces and officials. So whoever should be held legally responsible for the massacre at the hospital will only be subject to accountability under U.S. military and civilian legal systems, which routinely fail to prosecute anyone for similar war crimes.
What makes this attack unique is not that U.S.-led forces attacked a hospital or killed civilians, but that, for the first time in many years, a Western NGO found itself operating behind enemy lines in territory controlled by Anti-Coalition Forces (ACF) or Taliban. Doctors Without Borders (or MSF for its French initials) thus found itself subject to U.S. rules of engagement under which Afghans have lived and died in their thousands for the past 14 years, effectively excluded from the protections formally guaranteed to civilians, the wounded and medical facilities by the Geneva Conventions.
While UN officials have condemned the attack on MSF in Kunduz, the UN itself has been complicit in the under-reporting of civilian casualties in ACF-held territory in Afghanistan. The UN has issued reports on civilian casualties based only on the small number of civilian deaths that it has fully investigated. When Western officials and media have cited these numbers as estimates of total civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the UN has failed to correct that misleading and dangerous impression.
For instance, when the UN documented 80 civilian killings in U.S. night raids in 2010, this was based on completed investigations of only 13 of the 73 incidents reported to the UN that year. Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who worked on the UN report, estimated that 420 civilians were killed in all 73 incidents.
But Nadery still failed to make it clear that these 73 incidents were only the ones reported to the UN, which had little or no access to ACF-held areas that were targeted by thousands of U.S. night raids and the bulk of 5,100 U.S. air strikes in 2010. U.S. officials and the Western media have used these absurdly low estimates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan to whitewash the deadly effects of 60,000 U.S. air strikes and thousands of special forces night raids over the past 14 years.
‘War Is Not Pretty’
As a former U.S. Navy Seal told the New York Times, “War is not this pretty thing the United States has come to believe it to be.” But it is not really “the United States” that has come to see war as a “pretty thing.” Rather it is our leaders who have targeted the American public with propaganda or “Stratcom” – “strategic communications” — to disguise the horrific reality of war, while providing JSOC and other U.S. forces with secrecy and legal cover to systematically violate the Geneva Conventions.
As retired Admiral James Stavridis told the Times, “If you want these forces to do things that occasionally bend the rules of international law, you certainly don’t want that out in public.”
While U.S. forces feel free to disregard the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, the People On War survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that ordinary people in war-torn countries like Afghanistan hold strongly to the international legal conventions that are supposed to protect them.
This ICRC report did find the United States exceptional, not in believing war to be “pretty,” but in its failure to educate its people and its soldiers about the Geneva Conventions and the protections they guarantee to civilians in wartime.
While three-quarters of people in other developed countries knew that soldiers in war “must attack only other combatants and leave civilians alone,” only 52 percent of Americans were aware of this basic principle of military law. Twice as many Americans as people in other countries subscribed to an erroneous and lower legal standard that military operations should only “avoid civilians as much as possible.”
The ICRC concluded that, “Across a wide range of questions, in fact, American attitudes towards attacks on civilians were much more lax.”
U.S. officials claim that their air strikes are carefully designed and vetted by military lawyers and planners to ensure minimum “collateral damage,” but William Arkin discovered a dirty little secret about this process when he was invited to observe an attack on an alleged ACF leader in Afghanistan from the safety of the U.S. Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar.
Arkin watched on a large TV screen as A-10 Warthog planes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a convoy of vehicles. U.S. officials explained that 1,000-pound bombs would have caused more casualties, while 150-pound Hellfire missiles might have missed their target, so the 500-pound bombs were carefully chosen to kill the target without causing unnecessary casualties.
But then one of the planes did something unexpected. It turned to make a second pass and blanketed the whole area with 30mm armor-piercing shells from its Gatling gun, which fires 65 shells per second. A “precision strike” had just turned into an indiscriminate massacre. A U.S. official quickly told Arkin that this was “not unauthorized.”
The dirty little secret Arkin had discovered was that, once such an operation is under way, special forces ground controllers in the area take full control, and the plans drawn up by lawyers and controllers far from the action no longer apply. Similar rules may have applied to the U.S. air strikes on the MSF hospital in Kunduz, making it difficult for anyone in Washington or Kabul to stop them once they were under way.
Senior U.S. military officers have told Dana Priest of the Washington Post that more than 50 percent of U.S. special forces night raids target the wrong person or house. But that didn’t stop President Obama making them a central tactic in his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, boosting the number of night raids from 20 raids in May 2009 to 1,000 per month a year later.
There is no reason to believe that U.S. air strikes are more accurate or based on better intelligence than night raids by special operations forces. British military adviser Kamal Alam explained to the BBC last Friday that Russian air strikes in Syria are likely to be more accurate than U.S. ones because they have the critical advantage of being guided by Syrian military intelligence on the ground.
Alam noted that even the Iraqi government depends on Syrian military intelligence in its campaign against the Islamic State, and added that this is a source of embarrassment to U.S. officials, who have no such human intelligence capabilities in Syria or Iraq.
Maybe the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz will force more Americans to confront the ugly reality of the devastating air war our country has waged across half a dozen countries for 14 years. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Endless Air Wars.”]
Whether any institution can succeed in holding U.S. officials legally accountable for the bombing of the MSF hospital or not, it may finally bring home the horrors and the indiscriminate nature of our country’s endless air war to millions of Americans. U.S. propaganda will try to portray this as a tragic isolated incident. It is not. It is a war crime, and only the latest in a 14-year-long policy of systematic war crimes.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.